Belgrade (dpa) – Steve Clarke had to stop a tear when he stepped in front of the press after this memorable evening in Belgrade rain.
The coach of the Scottish national team had just accomplished great things: with a dramatic 5: 4 on penalties against Serbia, the Brewerheets qualified for the European Football Championship the following summer. First major tournament in 23 years. And he will – as a co-host – match up against the Czech Republic and Croatia in Glasgow, as well as a duel with England in neighboring England.
Now Clarke, who was not bothered by the saddle of his tree trunk, stood in front of the cameras with intermittent voices. “I had a little sparkle in my eyes. But I managed to control my emotions,” he said of Vijay’s moment. The moment when English 2nd Division club Derby County goalkeeper David Marshall scored a decisive penalty from the line and the Scotland collective broke into cheers.
Scotland had finished “22 Years of Pain”, cheering the newspaper “The Scotsman”. The last major tournament for the British part of the country, with around 5.5 million inhabitants, was the 1998 World Cup in France. The Scots also initially failed in this European Championship qualification, only qualifying through the playoffs for the 2018–19 group winners of the United Nations. And in the deciding game against the Serbs, the victory was a knife edge. After the lead (52nd), Clarke’s team scored an equalizer in the 90th minute and went through extra time and penalty shoot-outs.
“Usually we fail at the last hurdle,” Clarke said. It worked, ensured the players danced in the dressing room and at least midfielder Ryan Christie did a tearful interview after the game. And Clarke announced: “Maybe I’ll cry when I’m in my room later.”
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